By: Logan Everett, MA, LMFTA
There are many books, articles, journals and experts throwing claims to say they really know how marriage and relationships work. You see the stores filled with couple self-help books that promise a better marriage, relationship, sex life, connection, etc. The problem with these books and resources is that most authors and professionals work from what they see. Most experts on marriage only see pain, suffering, deceit, infidelity, brokenness, loss – and that’s exactly what they focus on.
John and Julie Schwartz Gottman co-created what is known as the Gottman Method Couples Therapy approach. You may wonder what is so unique and special about this approach. The answer is science! Unlike most experts, John Gottman began his research over 40 years ago studying what makes marriages work and also what causes a marriage to break down and become toxic. He has developed this detailed approach that has allowed him the ability to predict if marriages will succeed or fail with over 90% accuracy – Over 90%!
I am currently level 1 trained in Gottman Method Couples Therapy and currently working towards being level 2 trained in the Gottman’s 4-part certification process. The method is based on 7 principles that are essential for marking marriage work. Their theory, called the Sound Relationship House Theory, presents these 7 principles in a practical way to begin making your marriage work well. We will begin with the first three levels that focus on building our friendship.
Principle #1: Build Love Maps
A common occurrence when we first begin dating is simply learning everything we can possibly learn about the other person. Building a love map is allowing your partner or spouse to “fill up” your head space. We do this by asking open-ended questions such as:
- What do you want you life to be like in three years from now?
- What goals do you have just for your self right now?
- What things are missing in your life?
- If you could live one other person’s life, whose life would you choose and why?
This is a simple, fun, yet very revealing exercise to build closeness and friendship in your relationship and marriage. If you have trouble remembering the answers, it is OK to take notes! This still shows your spouse that she really matters to you and you want to remember her answers. You can further secure this bond by picking up his favorite soda at the store or really supporting and encouraging the goals she has for the next year.
Principle #2: Share Fondness & Admiration
This principle focuses on the affection and amount of respect in a relationship or marriage. Creating a culture of appreciation and mutual respect does not allow the “clip-clop” of contempt (one of the “4 Horsemen of the Apocalypse” and the most toxic of the 4) to gallop in your home and marriage. We create and share fondness and admiration by listing different aspects of our spouse we really appreciate – such as:
I really appreciate ___________________________________________________.
List 5 appreciations you can express to your spouse in your own words. You can even add an example of when you saw this and how you felt when it happened. This can bring you closer together as a couple and truly admire each other.
Principle #3: Turn Towards Instead of Away
“Turing towards” means that you are engaged in mutual interaction. From Gottman’s research, couples who are engaged in a lot of interaction tend to remain happy – the research speaks for itself – happy couples “turn toward” a partners bid (or attempt to engage) 86% of the time while couples who eventually divorce only turn towards each other 33% of the time. If we are not listening intently, we can miss these bids in two different ways:
- We “miss” a bid because it is wrapped up in anger or other negative emotion.
- This can be caused by the already rocky relationship that either spouse hears a negative tone even though it may be neutral or even positive. In every request, positive or negative, there is a valid reality. Even though you hear your partner’s words as negative – try to hear what is truly being said or asked.
- We are distracted by the online world.
- Today, most all individuals have a phone, computer, tablet or gaming console. For some, facebook, twitter, instagram, e-mail and text messages have us constantly turned away from our world (and our spouse) and trapped in a virtual reality. Make it a point in your home to have a “screen-free” hour or evening. Make sure this time is spent learning about each other (maybe you complete the exercises above) or even prepare and cook dinner together.
Again, the first three levels in the Sound Relationship House all speak toward building friendship. This friendship will be the root of your marriage and the foundation of a perpetual happiness. What are you waiting for?
Have questions? I am happy to answer them! I have completed level 1 training in Gottman Method Couples Therapy and use the Gottman Method assessments and tools with couples. I am also an approved member to use the Gottman Relationship Checkup to help couples see their areas of strengths as well as growth areas in reference to the Sound Relationship House. You can contact me at anytime directly by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling (317) 572-7411.